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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1511

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(10.53) —I have heard speeches like that from Senator Missen before but I do not think I have heard one quite as partisan as that before. He apparently blames all the ills that he sees in the parliamentary system on the Labor Government that has been in office for 18 months. I make just three comments. First of all, I think one of the problems with the committee system in this place is that there are far too many committees. There are too many select committees as well as standing committees. That is one of the reasons why people do not attend. Secondly, from my history in this place Senator Missen's claim that Australian Labor Party members not attending the committees is the cause of the committees not sitting is outrageous. I do not know that there would be much between the two parties. To suggest that the Labor Party is the problem is nonsense.

Thirdly, when I was on the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs with Senator Missen and on the Standing Committee on Social Welfare with Senator Peter Baume and others we treated the committee system as a bipartisan system. We frequently divided on non-party lines. We tried to do our work in a bipartisan way. I remember a report of the Social Welfare Committee in which Senator Baume, Senator Brown and I were on one side and Senator Melzer, Senator Walters and someone else were on the other. I remember at one stage on the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, when it was dealing with national compensation, there was an unlikely group of quads in Senators Missen, Chaney, Grimes and Button versus Senators Everett and Wright. I think that was healthy and a good way to operate.

All I can say is that there is a view on this side of the House that Senate committees are now used as party political forums by the other side of the House . I think we are seeing an example of that now. I think things are referred to committees using the numbers in this place for party political purposes. While that situation remains I am afraid that people on this side of the House will remain fairly cynical about the way in which Senator Missen's side of the House operates committees. If that situation persists the committee system will stay in the parlous state Senator Missen thinks it is in. I will look at the rest of his speech and we will see what happens.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 10.56 p.m.